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Allianz Takes $4.2 Billion Charge Over Collapsed Hedge Fund Debacle

Courtesy of ZeroHedge View original post here.

2021 was a bad year for hedge funds, but few were hit as hard as insurance giant Allianz SE, which today announced it would take a €3.7 billion ($4.2 billion) charge tied to the implosion of some of its U.S. hedge funds.

The provision will hit last year’s net income by €2.8 billion, the company said in a statement late Thursday. And while the insurer expects to settle with major investors in the funds shortly, bringing some clarity to months of uncertainty on the legal bill for the matter, discussions with other plaintiffs, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are ongoing. The company also warned that it can’t reliably estimate the total financial impact of the legal matter and expects additional expenses.

Some background: the Allianz hedge fund investment strategy, known as Structured Alpha, used "complex option strategies" to generate predictable returns without excessive risk, but according to the investors, imploded in February and March 2020 after quietly removing hedges designed to minimize losses.

What is remarkable is that the hedge funds offered by the AGI unit were designed to provide protection against a market crash. Instead, two of the Structured Alpha Funds were liquidated at the end of March 2020 after suffering massive losses, and Allianz has since wound down the rest.

According to court papers, the Structured Alpha Global Equity 500 fund lost three-quarters of its value, lagging its benchmark by nearly 60 percentage points. Two other funds once worth $2.3 billion were liquidated, locking in investor losses.

The collapse sparked a frenzy of lawsuits by investors alleging losses of some $6 billion, as well as an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Back in August, Allianz warned that the hedge funds implosion could “materially impact” future earnings, after the U.S. Department of Justice started a probe into the funds.  Then, in September, a U.S. judge said Allianz must face investor claims it wrongly "abandoned" the investment strategies it promised to use on hedge funds that suffered massive losses as the COVID-19 pandemic shook markets early last year.

It wasn't all bad though: Allianz said operating profit rose 25% to 13.4 billion euros last year, and the company announced a plan to buy back as much as 1 billion euros of its own shares. Indeed, as Bloomberg notes, the hedge fund debacle "overshadowed a strong rebound at Allianz from the impact of the pandemic, with higher prices and an economic recovery fueling underlying earnings."


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